The World Food Prize Foundation

2005: Gupta

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Dr. Modadugu Gupta


Dr. Modadugu V. Gupta was named the 2005 World Food Prize Laureate for his exceptional achievement in enriching the diets and lives of the world’s most impoverished families.  As a prime architect of a “blue revolution” in Asia and around the globe, Dr. Modadugu V. Gupta has increased the protein and mineral content in the diets of over one million of the world’s most impoverished families. His promotion of aquaculture has contributed to the economic and social empowerment of men and women in poor and rural areas.

Full Biography

Born in India in 1939, Modadugu Gupta began his career in 1962 researching how to bring the benefits of fish production to poor communities. He earned a doctorate from the University of Calcutta and became a research associate at the Indian Council of Agriculture Research. After assessing the physical and social resources available in impoverished areas, Gupta developed two exceptional approaches for increasing fish harvests among the very poor.

He taught poor and landless people to recycle farm wastes such as rice, bran, weeds and manure to support and grow larger fish stock. He also advocated the polyculture technique of raising multiple species of fish in one pond habitat to effectively feed and harvest more varieties of fish with higher nutritional value.

Using techniques based on Gupta’s work, poor farmers and rural families across a large swath of South and Southeast Asia (including areas of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia) have turned abandoned ponds, roadside ditches, seasonally flooded fields and other bodies of water as small as 300-400 square meters into “mini-factories” churning out fish for food and income. To give an example, over 150,000 seasonal ponds in Bangladesh which were lying fallow before Gupta’s intervention were subsequently blooming with fish.

In the early 1970s, Gupta brought these low-cost approaches to Southeast Asia, where he identified several carp species native to India as being well adapted to the Mekong River environment. By training farmers and scientists to breed and support the new species, Gupta was instrumental in increasing fish yields and rural incomes as farmers and consumers alike attempted to recover from the impact of the Vietnam War.

More breakthroughs came in Bangladesh in the 1980s, where he identified over a million ponds, roadside canals and ditches, and seasonally flooded pools as potential water resources that were at the time untapped by fish producers. He also enlisted nongovernmental organizations in branching out to small farmers and, specifically, to women, who were previously limited to working inside the home, as means to ensure sustainable aquaculture practices.

Asia’s poorest fish farmers could now provide nutrition for their families with enough fish left to bring in added income. Gupta’s novel techniques increased average annual fish production in India from barely 0.5 tons per hectare in the early 1970s to between two and 10 tons per hectare. The carp varieties he introduced in Vietnam eventually comprised 30 to 40 percent of all freshwater fish production by the early 21st century.

Gupta’s technologies boosted Bangladesh’s fish yields from 304 kilograms per hectare to over 2,500 kilograms per hectare in less than a year – including 1,000 kilograms per hectare harvests in the dry season. Thanks to his innovations, fish production in Bangladesh continued to grow by 300 percent during the 1990s. By increasing the percentage of Bangladeshi women involved in aquaculture from virtually zero to about 60 percent, Gupta further ensured the long-term economic and social stability of rural communities based in fish farming.

His coordination of the International Network on Genetics in Aquaculture spread aquatic biodiversity across Asia, Africa and the Pacific. It allowed leading researchers to coordinate their efforts under new biosafety protection protocols, and trained roughly 300 scientists from developing countries in the development of sustainable and effective fish production strategies.

Gupta has been a lifelong catalyst in expanding the global reach and effectiveness of aquaculture. His achievements include scientific breakthroughs as well as innovative implementation practices. He did not merely bring fish to many destitute families and countries; by teaching many of them how they could raise bigger fish, he enhanced nutrition and fed millions of the poorest people in the world. For these achievements, Gupta received the 2005 World Food Prize.

After retiring from The World Fish Center in 2004, Gupta remained a senior research fellow at the center and chair of the organizing committee of the International Workshop on Environmentally Friendly Aquaculture. He was also active as an advisor on agricultural and aquacultural research and fisheries to the governments of Mozambique and India. He served as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Aquaculture, and was elected a Distinguished Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Dedicated to improving the world’s fish supply, Gupta built a global network of like-minded scientists, managers and leaders. The millions impacted by his work span several continents and range from international experts to small-scale farmers.

Additional Links

Dr. Gupta on Food Security and World Peace

Peace prize winner urges investment in aquaculture to solve global hunger

Return to Laureates Main Page

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